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Multi-faceted 'Torchlight II' thrills and compels

Runic

By Julian Aidan, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 28, 2012

Since “Diablo 3” ’s release, the sequel to Runic Games’ critically acclaimed “Torchlight” has been hotly anticipated for comparison. Max and Erich Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Runic Games, worked for Blizzard North prior to its closing in 2005 and were responsible for the development of the seminal “Diablo” and its sequel. “Torchlight II” provides an action role-playing game experience that draws on some of the best elements from the genre.

Set several years past the end of the original, “Torchlight II” pits players against hordes of enemies in a quest to restore balance to the world’s six elements, because some guy named The Alchemist decided that screwing with an entire planet was a good idea. With diverse environments and a campaign that provides limitless hours of fun via a “New Game+” mode, the game’s cartoonish art style and tongue-in-cheek approach to providing an engaging and challenging hack-and-slash adventure set it apart from the serious tones of its peers “Diablo” and “Path of Exile.” Likewise, the fluidity of the game’s addicting, fun and accessible experience sets it above them.

As one of four classes, the player delves headfirst into the in-game universe. The Embermage fills the role of the traditional mage, offering elemental mastery and flashy spells to distract and destroy opponents. The Outlander provides a middle ground between the mage and a ranged damage dealer, hitting from afar with bows, guns and spells. Fans of getting up close and personal will find solace in both Engineers and Berserkers, the former relying on magical weapons and constructs to do his bidding while the latter channels animal spirits to put enemies in the ground.

The game looks and feels like a “Fable” or “Kingdoms of Amalur”-style role-playing game, with simple but interesting environments and a top-down camera. A chosen pet — ranging from tarantula to wolf to jaguar — accompanies the player throughout his or her journey, running back to town on errands or taking down stray enemies as needed. The main quest line compels, while a multitude of optional dungeons, random events and side quests provide fun distractions from the grind of loot hunting and leveling.

Combat is frantic and players will regularly find themselves confronting upwards of 10 enemies at a time. The visual effects do not distract, allowing players to intuitively follow fights and make split-second decisions necessary for staying alive. Gameplay is extremely accessible at every level, with difficulties ranging from Casual to Elite, and an intuitive action bar and character loadout. An attractive user interface and information-heavy yet not clumsy or obtrusive heads-up display makes an already enjoyable and attractive gameplay experience that much better.

All in all, “Torchlight II” provides a stimulating and intense adventure through a beautifully detailed world ripe with secrets waiting to be discovered while remaining playable by both the casual and hardcore gamer. With four classes, up to six-player multiplayer classes, incredibly high replay value and meticulous attention to detail that manifests itself in a world that looks and sounds every bit as alive as the person behind the keyboard, the sequel takes the genre to a new level of dungeon-crawling, skull-crushing fun in a world that never gets boring.